SOREDI on thin ice with BCC

The Board of Josephine County Commissioners reiterated that they have authorized membership dues to be paid to Southern Oregon Regional Development, Inc. at their Feb. 8 meeting, after indicating they were considering dissolving their partnership with SOREDI the week prior.
SOREDI Executive Director Colleen Padilla received many questions from the board at their Feb. 1 meeting. They expressed frustration toward the nonprofit over their belief that it shows favoritism to Jackson County and because SOREDI did not lend support to recent key economic development opportunities in JoCo, such as the Flying Lark venue at Grants Pass Downs and Rogue Truck Body expanding from the Illinois Valley to Merlin.
The contentious meeting created the impression that Josephine County yanking funding from SOREDI was imminent, but the discussion in Grants Pass’ Anne G. Basker Auditorium Feb. 8 clarified that the county’s membership dues have been paid through the end of 2023. However, it was clear from the dialogue that this may very well be the last year those membership dues are approved by the commissioners.

“My reservation with SOREDI over the last couple years is what have they done for Josephine County versus what do they do across the pond, across Blackwell Hill for Jackson County?” Commissioner Dan DeYoung asked. We are one of their charter members, and did they come to our aid when we had an endeavor that was going to bring in an influx of businesses? A lot of influxes, maybe even a motel across the south side of the river. And they were silent on that,” he stated, referring to the Flying Lark.

Padilla had explained Feb. 1 that SOREDI could not get involved with the Flying Lark because as a 501 c (4), they are “prohibited from advocating on things that might pit public dollars against private sector investment, specifically casinos.”

Despite Padilla’s explanation, DeYoung continued to rail against the Flying Lark venue being canceled, saying “it would have been a great benefit to the county… (SOREDI was) silent, and that bothered me a lot.

“I don’t know what they’ve done here locally,” DeYoung continued, opining that SOREDI “ignores” Josephine County until membership fees are due.

The commissioner concluded that SOREDI’s association with JoCo will not be dissolved in 2023, so those who would oppose such an action can “set (their minds) at ease for 365 more sleeps.”

Commissioner John West said SOREDI has “done some great things in the past,” but “I know they have missed the boat just in my little bit of time” as a commissioner, agreeing with DeYoung that they have had few economic development successes in the recent past.

“They’re paid for the year,” said West. “I guess we’re going to see in a year’s time how things are and we’ll make a decision on that.”

“SOREDI does a lot of things, but you have to also remember we have some big financial problems in the county,” Board Chair Herman Baertschiger stated. “When you’re talking about an $887,000,000 budget, we get excited when we find $5,000.

“That’s where we’re at. We’re trying to find every $5,000 we can so that we can continue with the services that people want in Josephine County. So that’s just a reality, but you need to know we see value in SOREDI.

“It’s just, how much can we afford?”